Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lobby Cards

Lobby Cards have become a rare sight. These 11” x 14” marketing images are hopelessly out of scale with today’s cavernous multiplexes. But there was a time when these little gems were a vital part of motion picture advertising. I grew up in a small town and our tiny movie theatre had so little street frontage that the manager had to use lobby cards instead of full sized posters to announce coming attractions.

Lobby Cards have been used since the earliest days of commercial cinema:

Tinting the photos soon became popular, even though the idea of a color movie at that time was preposterous.

However some of these tinted cards now seem like a defacement of iconic imagery:

Lobby Cards peaked during the monster movie craze:

Often they were more interesting than the actual movie:

There was a new Lobby Card for each episode of a serial. For example, in episode 12 of King of the Rocketmen, a wave of disaster strikes when Rocketman’s pants spontaneously combust:

But mainstream films had Lobby Cards as well:

Who can forget the hall of mirrors scene from Lady From Shanghai?

And this offering from Vertigo is a masterful visualization of Jimmy Stewart’s haunting by Kim Novak:

Since the 1970s, Lobby Cards have generally gotten simpler and less concerned with hype:

On the other hand, who can resist a catfight featuring Raquel Welch?

Simpler is not necessarily more accurate. This still from Taxi Driver makes the film look like a sunny teen comedy:

These days, Lobby Cards are basically just horizontally-oriented versions of the film’s main poster:

While they are rarely used in cinemas, there is still a market for Lobby Cards with collectors and home theatre enthusiasts.